Gal Evaluation Essay

I. Introduction

A. The Author

Galatians is without a doubt the most secure of all Paul’s letters and perhaps of all books of the NT. Even F. C. Baur, the father of the Tübingen school accepted its authenticity. Still, it may be helpful to examine in brief the reasons that have been given for such acceptance.

1. External Evidence

Galatians is quoted or alluded to in 1 Peter, Barnabas, 1 Clement, Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Both Marcion’s and the Muratorian canon list it.

2. Internal Evidence

The internal grounds for asserting authenticity are four: (1) “Paul, as author, is mentioned by name not only at the beginning (1:1) but also toward the end of the letter (5:2), and the whole from beginning to end breathes such an intensely personal and unconsciously autobiographical note that only a genuine historical situation involving the true founder of the Gentile mission within the church accounts for it.”1 (2) There are several coincidences (conceptual, verbal, historical, etc.) with what we know of Paul from Acts and other Pauline letters which are so unobtrusive as to be undesigned that they bear the stamp of genuineness. (3) There is controversy in the letter: Paul defends himself and his gospel as though both were doubted; further, he says some rather unflattering things to his audience which would be difficult for a later writer to get away with. And the nature of the controversy is something that hardly existed after 70 CE. A later writer would not only not be able to pass off this work as genuine, but he would have virtually no motive for writing it. (4) There is nothing negative in the epistle regarding authorship (historical discrepancies, language, theological development, etc.) to cast any doubts on authenticity.

B. Destination/Audience

The key introductory issue in Galatians is the destination. Until comparatively recent times, biblical scholars assumed that this epistle was sent to the churches in the geographical region known as Galatia, in north central Asia Minor. Thus, Paul would have visited the region on his second missionary journey (cf. Acts 16:6; 18:23) and his visit to Jerusalem (recorded in Gal. 2) would correspond to Acts 15. The epistle would then be sent sometime on Paul’s third missionary journey, perhaps from Corinth (Acts 20:3), in 55/56 CE. This view is known as the “North Galatian Theory” since the churches would be in the geographical Galatia, which was in the north.

But in fairly recent times, largely due to the archeological efforts of Sir William Ramsey, a new theory has been proposed—the “South Galatian Theory.” Not only Ramsey, but the majority of NT scholars today, would hold that Paul wrote this letter to the churches in the political province of Galatia—i.e., an area which the Roman government designated as Galatia. This province included cities substantially to the south of the geographical region of Galatia, including Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium. Paul had visited these cities on his first missionary journey. If the south Galatian theory is true, then there is no need to identify Gal. 2 with Acts 15, for the events described in Gal. 2 may well have happened on an earlier visit to Jerusalem. The letter would then have been written sometime before the events of Acts 15. The date of Galatians could then be as early as 47-49 CE, depending on when the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 is to be dated.

What is at stake here is both the date of this epistle and the interpretation of Gal. 2:1-10 (in terms of its historical setting). Less directly, the historical value of Acts is involved, as well as how to evaluate the theological development in the mind of Paul between the writing of Galatians and Romans. Finally, if Galatians is dated early (a la the south Galatian theory), then this letter becomes the first canonical Pauline epistle.2 A brief examination of the chief reasons for each view is in order.

1. North Galatian Theory

There are four primary arguments for the north Galatian theory.

a. No other view existed until comparatively recent times. This, of course, does not make the view correct, but it does place the burden of proof on the more recent theory.

b. The natural meaning of “Galatia,” “Galatians” (Gal. 1:2; 3:1) would be to a geographical region in north central Asia Minor. This was the referent as used by the inhabitants (the Gauls, who originated the name). Further, this seems to be Luke’s usage (i.e., he describes places according to geographical region rather than according to political province). In Acts 13:13; 13:14; and 14:6, Luke speaks of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia respectively, all of which are geographical terms. This indicates that he probably used the term “Phrygian and Galatian region” in 16:6 as a geographical term, too.3

c. Paul most likely visited the north Galatian districts, as Acts 16:6 and 18:23 seem to indicate. If so, then he must have visited this area twice, and there is a strong presumption that he established churches there.

d. Galatians 2:1-10 naturally refers to the Council visit in Acts 15. This can especially be seen in opposition to the south Galatian theory. If Gal. 2:1-10 refers to a previous visit of Paul to Jerusalem, which one? Only two prior visits are recorded, in Acts 9:26 and 11:30. Acts 9:26 is ruled out because that is Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem as a believer: in Gal. 2:1 he says he “again” went up to Jerusalem. Acts 11:30 seems to be ruled out because Acts records nothing of Paul’s visit with any of the apostles—only that they visited the “elders” with the relief fund in hand.

2. South Galatian Theory4

In my view, the chief battles which the north Galatian theorists have chosen to fight are really non-essential to the south Galatian theory. These battles will be listed as the first argument. North Galatian theorists argue against them not because of their intrinsic value for the south Galatian theory, but because, if true, the north Galatian theory is falsified. In other words, if any or all of the arguments listed in this first point were untrue, this would not damage the south Galatian theory. But if any of them were true, this would damage (or destroy!) the north Galatian theory.

a. Negative (and Non-Essential) Arguments

There is no hard evidence in Acts that Paul ever visited the north Galatian district. If he had, this would of course not prove the south Galatian theory wrong,5 on the other hand, if he did not, it would prove the north Galatian theory wrong. There are essentially three sub-points in defense of this supposition:

(1) Acts 16:6 and 18:23 are taken to mean, respectively, “the Phrygian-Galatian region” and “the [Roman] province of Galatia and Phrygia.” In the first instance, Φρυγίαν is taken (rightfully) as an adjective,6 and thus indicates that Luke is here using a political (rather than an ethnic/geographical) term. This opens up the distinct possibility—even though it may be against his normal practice—that he does the same thing in Acts 18:23. If so, in neither verse does Luke affirm that Paul visited the geographical region of Galatia.7

(2) Even if Paul penetrated the northern region, Luke does not mention that he established any churches there, while Luke does say that Paul established churches in the south. This argument from silence bears considerable weight since, on the north Galatian hypothesis, “it is strange that so little is said about churches where such an important controversy arose as is reflected in the Galatian epistle.”8 Of these three “non-essential” arguments, this seems to be the strongest. Even such a staunch supporter of the north Galatian view as Moffatt admitted, “Luke devotes far more attention to South Galatian churches, and [therefore] Galatians is more likely to have been addressed to them than to Christians in an out-of-the-way, unimportant district like North Galatia.”9

(3) The collection delegation contained no representative from north Galatia. The reference to Paul’s companions in Acts 20:4, who were apparently part of this delegation, includes Sopater (of Berea), Aristarchus and Secundus (from Thessalonica), Gaius (from Derbe), Timothy (from Lystra), etc. The churches of Galatia are explicitly mentioned as participating in this good will gesture in 1 Cor. 16:1. On the south Galatian theory, Timothy and Gaius would be the delegates; on the north Galatian theory, no one is mentioned. This silence is difficult to explain.10

b. The Isolation of the North Galatian District

According to Gal. 4:13, Paul was suffering from some illness in Galatia when he visited the region the first time. Indeed, he came there to recover. “But this would be highly improbable in the northern area, which was not only off the beaten track but necessitated a journey over difficult country.”11

c. Paul’s Use of (Roman) Provincial Titles

Although Luke’s (normal) practice may well have been to describe regions according to their geographical/ethnic names, Paul’s practice seems to be different—indeed, uniformly so. He writes “of the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1), Asia (1 Cor. 16:19), and Achaia (2 Cor. 1:1). He also speaks of Judea, Syria, and Cilicia, but never of Lycaonia, Pisidia, Mysia, and Lydia (which are not Roman names). The presumption that he is also using the Roman title in speaking of Galatia is therefore strong.”12 I personally find this argument to be quite compelling.

d. The Mention of Barnabas

Barnabas is thrice mentioned in Gal. 2 (vv. 1, 9, 13)—each time as though he were familiar to the audience. (In the least, it is significant that he is mentioned in this epistle more than in any other.) This would only be true if these churches were founded on the first missionary journey, for Barnabas and Paul split up before the second journey began. It is usually objected that Barnabas is also mentioned in 1 Cor. 9:6—again without introduction, yet he was apparently unknown to the Corinthians. In response, (1) Barnabas may well have become known to the Corinthians, though not via journeying with Paul; (2) more importantly, Gal. 2:13 implies that Barnabas’ character was known to the Galatians (while in 1 Cor. 9:6 no such implication is made).13

e. Gal. 2:1-10 Must Precede Acts 15

In essence, it is extremely surprising that Paul would make no mention of the Council’s decision, since it would substantially support his case and discredit the Judaizers, if Gal. 2 has the same referent as Acts 15. Further, whereas Gal. 2 records a private conversation, Acts 15 speaks of a public meeting.

f. The Number of Visits to Jerusalem

Galatians 2:1 says that Paul visited Jerusalem “again,” and the narrative gives the distinct impression that this is only Paul’s second visit. If so, it would then correspond to his visit in Acts 11:30, for Acts records only one visit prior to this (9:26). Even though Luke might not mention all of Paul’s visits to Jerusalem, this works decidedly against the north Galatian theory, for if that were the case here, Acts 15 would be Paul’s fourth (or later!) visit. This seems to be a virtually decisive piece of evidence.14

g. Theological Development between Galatians and Romans

Lightfoot argued that since there is obvious theological development between Galatians and Romans, Romans must come later. But, because he held to the north Galatian theory (in fact, was the major north Galatian proponent), he was compelled to see Galatians written during Paul’s short stay in Corinth (Acts 20:3). In our reconstruction (as well as that of the majority of NT scholars), Romans was written during this three-month period. That would mean that Galatians and Romans were written at virtually the same time (perhaps Galatians even came after Romans by a month or two), yet Galatians seems to be less mature than Romans. Because Lightfoot is almost surely right that there is theological development between these two epistles,15 it is difficult to imagine such development taking place in the space of a month or two. Rather, a few years would normally be needed. If Galatians is dated c. 48-49 CE, and Romans, 56 CE, the time gap is quite sufficient.

In sum, the south Galatian theory, though not unassailable, seems by far the most satisfactory. In particular, the arguments that seem most compelling on its behalf are: (1) the number of visits implied in Gal. 2:1 and mentioned in Acts; (2) Paul’s proven use of Roman provincial terms to describe what Luke would normally describe with geographical/ethnic terms; and (3) the absence of any mention of the decree in Gal. 2:1-10 which would so dramatically serve Paul’s purposes and prove, once and for all, that the Judaizers were not really representative of James or apostolic/Jerusalem Christianity.

C. Date

According to the south Galatian theory (i.e., in its most popular form), the terminus ad quem of this epistle must be before the Council of Acts 15 and the terminus a quo must be after Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Acts 11:30. In other words, Galatians must have been written between autumn, 46 CE and autumn, 48 CE.16

There is a significant problem for this dating, however, because of a couple chronological notes within Galatians itself. In Gal. 1:18 Paul speaks of going to Jerusalem “after three years”—i.e., after three years since his conversion. This Jerusalem visit corresponds to the one mentioned in Acts 9:26. In Gal. 2:1 he gives a second chronological note: “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.” This corresponds to the visit mentioned in Acts 11:30. If these seventeen years—from Paul’s conversion until the Jerusalem visit in Acts 11:30 (autumn, 46 CE)—are seventeen complete years, then this would make Paul’s conversion occur in 29 CE—that is, on any reasonable reckoning, before the death of Christ! Further, in our understanding, the death of our Lord occurred in 33 CE, and Paul’s conversion in 34 CE. There are three ways to deal with this problem from a south Galatian position.

(1) It is possible to reckon the years as inclusive years (a very natural form of expression in ancient times)17—i.e., to recognize that the fourteen years means twelve full years and portions of two others; the three years means one full year and portions of two others. If so, then the formula for this is as follows: “after three years” = A + 1 year + B; “after fourteen years” = C + 12 years + D. “Thus, taking a, b, c and d as unknown number of months, the total could be approximately 14 years.”18 This would be true even if each unknown quantity equaled, on average, three months. If so, Paul’s conversion could have been in 32 CE if the famine visit was as early as 46 CE. In fact, if the death of Jesus occurred in 30 CE, Paul’s conversion could be as early as 31, allowing as much as six months for the unknown quantities. This is quite possible, provided that one is amenable to a 30 CE crucifixion date.

(2) It is possible to treat the three years as occurring within the fourteen years, rather than as occurring before the fourteen years. In other words, Gal. 2:1 might be read: “Then, fourteen years [after my conversion], I went up . . .” It is often objected that this is special pleading, and well it might be. However, the real basis of the argument is often missed. The fact that ἔπειτα is used in 1:18, 21, and 2:1 is often seen as crucial: in 1:18 and 1:21 there is obviously chronological succession and hence we should see this in 2:1 as well. However, there is a difference: in 1:18 μετά is used to indicate the time element (“after three years”), while in 2:1 διά is used. This may mean “within fourteen years.”19 But this does not seem to make an advance over our original understanding of inclusive years. It is quite possible, however, to treat the ἔπειτα in 2:1 as resumptive of the ἔπειτα of 1:18, rather than as sequential to it. Although 1:21 suggests sequence, no years are mentioned; consequently, both in 1:18 and 2:1 Paul may well be marking time from his conversion.20 If this is the case, then fourteen years (i.e., 12 + A + B) could easily fit a conversion in (spring?) 34 CE and a Jerusalem visit in (fall) 46 CE.

(3) It is possible to combine either of the above approaches with a famine visit date of 47 CE (instead of 46 CE). If so, there is more latitude on the front end as well (i.e., the dates of Christ’s death and the conversion of Paul).

In sum, Paul’s chronological notes in Gal. 1:18 and 2:1 do not really pose any real problem for the south Galatian theory, even if one were to hold to a 33 CE crucifixion date for Christ.

As the date of this epistle, this can be more precisely determined as we look at the occasion. Suffice it to say here, it seems that this letter was written shortly before the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15—that is, in late summer/fall of 48 CE (or 49 CE).

D. Occasion/Purpose

Bruce has a nice summary:

When, as we are told in Acts 15:1, Judaean visitors came to Syrian Antioch and started to teach the Christians there that those who were not circumcised in accordance with the law of Moses could not be saved, it is antecedently probable that others who wished to press the same line visited the recently formed daughter-churches of Antioch, not only in Syria and Cilicia, as the apostolic letter indicates (Acts 15:23), but also in South Galatia. If so, then the letter to the Galatians was written as soon as Paul got news of what was afoot, on the even of the Jerusalem meeting described in Acts 15:6ff. This, it is suggested, would yield the most satisfactory correlation of the data of Galatians and Acts and the most satisfactory dating of Galatians. It must be conceded that, if this is so, Galatians is the earliest among the extant letters of Paul.21

The purpose of this letter was obviously, then, to refute the Judaizers’ false gospel—a gospel in which these Jewish Christians felt that circumcision was essential to salvation—and to remind the Galatians of the real basis of their salvation. It was the urgency of the situation which moved Paul to write even before the Jerusalem Council convened, for the churches of Galatia were at stake.22

E. Theme

Galatians has been called “the Magna Carta of the Reformation” and Luther’s “Katie von Bora.” It is the book on which the Protestant Reformation was founded. The key to this epistle is seen in 2:16: “Know that a man is not justified on the basis of the works of the Law, but on the basis of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness, and not on the basis of the works of the Law—for no flesh will be justified on the basis of the works of the Law.” Paul thus links Christ’s complete faithfulness to the old covenant as grounds for the abolition of the old covenant and as the basis for our salvation. In a nutshell, we are justified by faith in Christ because Christ was faithful.

II. Argument

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians in a manner different from all his other canonical epistles: although there is a short greeting (1:1-5), there is no thanksgiving to God for the Galatians. Instead, what follows is a denunciation of the Galatians for having deserted the grace of Christ and following after a false gospel (1:6-10).

The body of the epistle deals with three things: (1) a defense of Paul’s apostleship (1:11–2:21), since the very message of his gospel was at stake; (2) a defense of what that message entails in terms of justification by faith (3:1–4:31), since the Galatians’s standing before God is at stake; and (3) a defense of Christian liberty—which grows out of justification by faith (5:1–6:10), since the Galatians’ walk with God is at stake.

In the first section (1:11–2:21) Paul defends his apostleship in two ways. First, it was received by revelation (1:11-12). Thus its source was divine, not human. Second, it was independent of the Jerusalem apostles (1:13–2:21)—again, stressing its divine roots. Paul elaborates on this second point by taking pains to show that he never even consulted with any other apostles in the first three years after his conversion (1:13-17), and even when he did first visit Jerusalem, the visit was brief and only included time logged with Peter (1:18-24). Finally, when Paul did consult with the apostles (2:1-10) they both required nothing of Titus as to circumcision (2:1-5) and gave hearty approval to Paul’s gospel (2:6-10).

So strong was this approval, in fact, that Paul later felt the freedom to rebuke the chief of the Jerusalem apostles, Peter himself, when the two were in Antioch (2:11-21). The recording of such a rebuke23 should prove that truth was on Paul’s side, and hence his gospel was from God. (Most likely, the Judaizers had given a biased report of this incident to the Galatians, using it in support of their “gospel”.) Paul’s rebuke was not concerning Peter’s gospel, but concerning his inconsistent behavior with it, for out of fear Peter himself had tacitly agreed with the position of the Judaizers, to the harm of Gentile converts (2:11-13). For this hypocrisy, Paul rebuked Peter (2:14). The basis for the rebuke is then given (though it is unclear whether Paul is quoting himself when he confronted Peter or is now turning to the readers)24 (2:15-21): in essence, to add law to grace is to destroy grace and to make a mockery of the cross (cf. 2:21).

The second major section (3:1–4:31) is really the heart of this epistle, for Paul clearly sets forth what justification by faith really meant and why it was true. He begins with a justification of justification (3:1-18). The basic gist of his argument was that (1) the Spirit was received by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); (2) the example of Abraham illustrates that one is justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14); and (3) the Law, which came 430 years after God’s covenant with Abraham, cannot invalidate the promise (3:15-18).

But such vindication of justification by faith raises a problem: why then was the Law given (3:19)? If the same God gave the promise, why would he add the Law? Paul answers this question (3:19–4:6) with two responses: (1) it was temporary in nature, given to remind/warn the nation of Israel that a works-righteousness was thoroughly inadequate, though its standard of perfection anticipated the coming of the Messiah (3:19-25); and (2) it had an inferior status, effectively enslaving those who would be sons (3:26–4:7). Thus the Law had its place, viz., to point out to the nation of Israel its need for Christ.

The apostle now turns to his readers with a direct appeal (4:8-31). Having just demonstrated that the Law enslaved, he points out that the Galatians, too, had experienced slavery as pagans worshipping false gods (4:8-9). By accepting the Judaizers’ message, they would simply replace one kind of slavery with another (4:10-11)! Not only this, but the effect that the Judaizers’ message was having on the Galatians (4:12-20) was not only to alienate them from Paul (4:17), but also to rob them of their joy in Christ (4:15). Paul concludes his appeal employing Hagar and Sarah as an allegory for law and grace (4:21-31).

Having argued his case for the truth of justification by faith, Paul launches into his final major section of the epistle in which he shows how it should work out in one’s life (5:1–6:10). At stake especially is Christian liberty, for as Paul has repeatedly shown, the Law enslaves. Consequently, the apostle begins with this very issue, the enslavement of the Law (5:1-12), and argues that the Law harms liberty in five ways: (1) it enslaves the believer (5:1-2); (2) it turns the believer into a debtor (5:3); (3) it alienates the believer from Christ, causing him to fall from grace (5:4-6); (4) it hinders the progressive sanctification of the Christian (5:7-10); and (5) it removes the stigma of the cross, making Christ’s death unnecessary (5:11-12).

On the other hand, Christian liberty does not give one license to do whatever he wants (5:13-26). Paul writes preemptively to the Galatians about the effects of license (5:13-21), in hopes that they would heed his message but not go beyond the bounds of grace. In essence, the liberty of justification is the liberty to live for God, not the liberty to sin. Paul then shows how one should live for God as well as the result of living for God (5:22-26): by the Spirit, resulting in character qualities “against which there is no law” (5:23).

The value of liberty is not only in relation to ourselves (character development) and God. It also has value for others. True liberty is liberty to love and to serve others (6:1-10). The spiritual should serve by gently rebuking the weak and modeling responsibility for the corporate body of Christ (6:1-5). The congregation should exercise its liberty by loving all people, but especially other believers (6:10).

Paul closes his epistle (6:11-18) by unmasking the true motives of the Judaizers (6:12-13) as compared with his own motives (6:14-17), followed by his customary benediction (6:18).

III. Outline25

I. Introduction (1:1-10)

A. Salutation (1:1-5)

B. Denunciation (1:6-10)

II. Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (1:11–2:21)

A. Received by Revelation (1:11-12)

B. Independent of Jerusalem Apostles (1:13–2:21)

1. Demonstrated by Paul’s Conversion and Early Years as a Christian (1:13-17)

2. Demonstrated by Paul’s First Post-Conversion Visit to Jerusalem (1:18-24)

3. Confirmed by the Jerusalem Apostles (2:1-10)

a. The Treatment of Titus (2:1-5)

b. The Approval of Paul (2:6-10)

4. Illustrated by Paul’s Rebuke of Peter (2:11-21)

a. Peter’s Hypocrisy (2:11-13)

b. Paul’s Rebuke (2:14)

c. The Principle Involved (2:15-21)

III. Doctrinal: Defense of Justification by Faith (3:1–4:31)

A. Vindication of Justification by Faith (3:1-18)

1. The Experience of the Galatians (3:1-5)

2. The Example of Abraham (3:6-14)

a. The Faith of Abraham (3:6-9)

b. The Curse of the Law (3:10-12)

c. The Curse on Christ (3:13)

d. The Blessing of Abraham (3:14)

3. The Permanence of the Promise (3:15-18)

a. The Promise Given to Abraham’s Seed, Christ (3:15-16)

b. The Law’s Irrelevance for the Promise (3:17-18)

B. Purpose of the Law (3:19–4:7)

1. Its Temporary Nature (3:19-25)

2. Its Inferior Status (3:26–4:7)

a. Equality in the Body of Christ (3:26-29)

b. Slaves Vs. Sons (4:1-7)

C. Appeal Concerning Justification by Faith (4:8-31)

1. Paul’s Concern for the Galatians (4:8-20)

a. Because of their Return to Bondage (4:8-11)

b. Because of their Loss of Joy (4:12-20)

2. An Appeal from Allegory (4:21-31)

IV. Practical: Defense of Christian Liberty (5:1–6:10)

A. Liberty Vs. Law (5:1-12)

1. The Law Enslaves the Believer (5:1-2)

2. The Law Obligates the Believer (5:3)

3. The Law Alienates Christ (5:4-6)

4. The Law Hinders Growth (5:7-10)

5. The Law Removes the Offense of the Cross (5:11-12)

B. Liberty Vs. License (5:13-26)

1. The Fruit of License (5:13-21)

2. The Fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26)

C. Liberty to Love (6:1-10)

1. Responsibility toward the Weak and Sinful (6:1-5)

2. Responsibility toward the Leaders (6:6-9)

3. Responsibility toward All People (6:10)

V. Conclusion (6:11-18)

A. Authentication of the Epistle (6:11)

B. Condemnation of the Judaizers (6:12-16)

1. The Motives of the Judaizers (6:12-13)

2. The Motives of Paul (6:14-17)

C. Benediction (6:18)

The Evaluation Essay

The purpose of an evaluation essay is to demonstrate the overall quality (or lack thereof) of a particular product, business, place, service or program. While any evaluation involves injecting some form of opinion, if an evaluation is done properly it should not come across as opinionated. Instead, the evaluation should seem reasoned and unbiased.

The key to making this happen, and therefore the key to a good investigative essay, is establishing clear and fair criteria, judgments and evidence

Criteria (the plural of criterion) means establishing what the ideal for the product, place or service should be. It means demonstrating what one should expect as the ideal outcome, Having clear criteria keeps an evaluation from seeming like an opinion. For example, if you are evaluating a restaurant, you want to establish the criteria (quality of food, service, price, cleanliness, etc.) that any good restaurant will adhere to; this criteria can then be applied to the specific restaurant you are evaluating. 

The judgment is the establishment of whether or not the criterion is met. In other words, the judgment is what actually is. Using the example from above, if the first criterion for evaluating a restaurant is the quality of the food, the judgment states whether or not the particular restaurant offers food that meets or exceeds this stated quality.

The evidence is the details offered to support the judgment. If your judgment is that a particular restaurant does not consistently offer quality food, you need to support this with a variety of evidence to show how the judgment was reached. 

Generally, each body paragraph of an evaluation essay is going to focus on one specific criterion, which should be fully explained, followed by the judgment and a variety of evidence offered as support. Because of this, it is important that any evaluation contains several different criteria, judgments and evidence.

An overall thesis should also be offered. For an evaluation essay, this thesis is the overall evaluation of whatever is being evaluated. Once again, if the criteria, judgments and evidence are clear, the overall thesis should be, as well. For example, if the restaurant meets most of the criteria laid out in the essay, the overall evaluation should be mostly positive, whereas if the most of the criteria is not met, the evaluation will be mostly negative.

Topic Selection

When selecting a topic for an evaluation essay, it is important to focus on a specific business, service, product or policy. In other words, evaluate a specific class (English 121 at Aims) rather than evaluating a range of similar classes (all Aims' writing classes). Writing about a topic that you know about is also helpful. That makes it easier to establish the appropriate criteria, judgments and evidence.


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